Cash for Clunkers aids area car dealers

Like it or not, the federal government’s Cash for Clunkers program just might actually be achieving its goals of aiding America’s car companies while ridding the roads of some of the more dangerous and more polluting vehicles all across America.

President Obama signed the bill into law last month, creating the NHTSA Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), more popularly known as Cash for Cars.  Originally, $1 billion was allocated for the program which allows owners of older model cars to trade up to brand new, more fuel efficient models, while receiving a $4,500 voucher towards the new car purchase.  The federal government will reimburse those dealers that are registered as CARS affiliates for each clunker that they buy.

After beginning last week, the program was already out of money by week’s end.  The U. S. Senate and the House of Representatives were debating whether to approve an additional $2 billion, as of Monday.

A few local dealers registered to participate in the cash for clunkers program, including Lavelle Sullivan of Sullivan Ford-Lincoln-Mercury in Brookhaven.  Sullivan had mixed emotions about the program.

“We’ve seen an increase in business over the past several days, mainly with folks stopping by or calling with questions.  (As of Thursday) “We’ve had about 5 deals so far,” Sullivan said.

While up to $4,500 is good for an 10, 15, 20 year old vehicle, Sullivan believes that the used car market will suffer because of it.

“The program is taking good quality used cars and trucks off the road that have a lot of miles left in them,” Sullivan added, while pointing out a 1996 Ford Thunderbird that he had bought earlier in the day that was in good condition.  “Cars like this, that have been taken care of and that are still great to drive, are going to be missing from the market,”  Sullivan added.

Just up the road in Terry, MS, Michael Skinner of Skinner’s Chevrolet–Buick–Pontiac–GMC said that he has had many inquiries for the first few days of the Clunker program.  By Thursday afternoon, he was working on his first deal.

“I think it’s a good idea.  Some of our customers will be able to upgrade to a better vehicle that’s safer to drive and will be better on the roads,” Skinner said.  Much of what was rolling in to the dealerships are mid-1990’s model cars and trucks.

“We think that we’ll sell a few more trucks (under the Cash for Clunkers program) than we will cars before its over with,” Skinner added.

To qualify under the program the new car being purchased must show a minimum fuel economy of 22 MPG.  A mileage improvement of 10 MPG verses the trade-in will bring $4,500, for example.

Pick-up trucks must have a minimum of 18 MPG over the trade-in.  Purchasers can get up to a $4,500 voucher for fuel improvement of only 5 MPG.  Larger trucks must get 15 MPG and can have a fuel improvement of only 2 MPG.  

Vehicles must have been made in 1984 or later to qualify.  For more information, contact a local new car dealer.

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